A Cumbersome Obstacle to Education: Censorship

In Book II and Book III of the Republic, Glaucon and Socrates discuss the implication of justice and how education can help create a model citizen who could identify what is just. Socrates approaches this situation by “[creating] a city in theory from its beginning”, so they can oversee potential problems that they might encounter (369c). In order to have a sustainable city, Socrates suggests that there would be a division of labor in which people specialize in different tasks. However, Glaucon disagree that bare necessities are sufficient for a satisfactory life. War is an inevitable scenario when luxurious pursuits exist in their world. Hence, Glaucon and Socrates start discussing how guards should be developed since they are young to “be gentle to their own people and harsh to the enemy” (375c).

Education in Socrates’s world can be described in one word: censorship. Socrates argues that the depiction of Greek gods is immoral, so “everyone will be ready to excuse himself when he’s bad” (391e). However, one’s opinion is often prone to be subjective and biased, and Socrates’s is not an exception. Socrates only wants to expose his guards to what he approves. In this regard, he is the opposite of what education should be: an unlimited freedom to explore the world. In order to distinguish justice from injustice, one needs to know what is right and what is wrong. Hence, it is impossible to cherish what is just when one does not know what being unjust means. Instead of censoring the materials that one deems obscene, one should analyze and explain why those materials are immoral to one’s students. Censorship is ignorance. Whereas, trusting in the basic virtues in human enough to teach sinful things is wisdom.

In conclusion, Socrates contradicts his usual belief that wisdom is the gateway to achieve “eudaimonia” by censoring knowledge. Hence, a real education, regardless of the time period, should allow human beings unlimited access to what mankind already knows, for the “unknown” is only discovered with a good grasp of the “known”.


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